‘Fallout 4’s’ Retrofuturism Of The 1950’s Atomic Age In 2077 Is What Makes The Game Possible

Fallout 4 Bethesda Game Atomic Age

The satire of the 2070s in Fallout 4 inspired by the 1950s seems to be that of an alternate history completely. A divergence if you will. The art deco stylings of interior decorating to the retro-futuristic technology of robot butlers is reminiscent and likely inspired by those that had their ideas of a future.

There could be some difficulty in Fallout 4 in allowing a player to connect to this satirical set-up via the prospective vault dweller’s short-lived journey to Vault 111, according to The Atlantic. It is even questioned, “Why the 50s?” There is no real justification for the game’s cultural environment of the mid-20th century era to even be frozen in this time slot.

“The inherent humor in the juxtaposition the game creates between its cozy ’50s aesthetic and its hyperviolent imagery is clear, but there’s nothing in the world itself that justifies this, or at least expands on it.”

It does seem the Fallout world justifies it’s existence by using such a premise that ties into the 50s. The Atlantic mentions the following.

“Maybe the answer to ‘Why the ’50s?’ is simply that without the ’50s, Fallout wouldn’t be Fallout.”

Even though the family man or woman is seen having his own attachment to his nuclear family, there’s likely a challenge with the Fallout 4 game player forming any emotional connection themselves due to this brief moment before Armageddon.

“The sequence gives the player no opportunity to engage in any meaningful way with either spouse or son. Instead, the game seems to utilize 1950s imagery as a visual shorthand; by presenting the traditional nuclear family in their comfortable suburban home, the game is telling the player to assume that they are happy and loving, rather than this being illustrated through in-game actions.”

Though, there does seem to be an attempt made during the opening cinematic sequence to connect the user to the character’s post-veteran experience.

It’s claimed that there’s simply not much interaction between you and whomever character you’ve chosen between the game’s beginning up until the bombs fell. You might want to consider yourself lucky the Vault-Tec rep stopped by in time at your house for information verification.

Of course, the music in the Fallout 4 game from the mid-20th century is obvious as you can tune in to your futuristic Pip-Boy. There’s also something to note that in this alternate, retro-futuristic depiction of this fictional timeline acknowledges the existence of the Cold War and had deemed the Fallout world an era that harnesses nuclear energy as opposed to the real disasters caused by events at Three-Mile Island in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986, and then Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi event. All of which halted the “rise of nuclear energy,” according to The Atlantic.

A Fallout Wikia page gave some interesting feedback on a related question:

“I don’t understand the 50s setting. If the bombs dropped in 2077, why would the world still look like it did in the 50’s?”

That’s quite a justifiable question for game players of the wasteland, considering how it seems the 1950s is the new 2070s in the game and it makes sense to ponder and scratch our “attention to detail” brains. The theory went along there where in the real world, we focused our technological advances on the computer age, whereas in the world of Fallout, there was an alternate history where society considered nuclear advancement to be priority.

It seems that the divergence created in the Fallout universe represented what people from the 50s thought the future would be like. I.e.- Monsanto’s Disney’s House of the Future, wherein the entire structure was built out of plastic. It was likely such an example of how we, in the world outside of Fallout, envisioned it.

But perhaps in the Fallout 4 game there is the endearing method by which the appeal of retro-futurism is at play. This is a means used in a lot of creative works where the author focuses on a time where people dreamed up a futuristic world of science fiction. Some technologies that were imagined came true to a certain extent, or at least resulted in a similar form. I.e. – Star Trek’s prop “floppy disks” used on set in the old William Shatner series wound up becoming a reality. Such is an example of retrofutrism.

There is even a comparison made of the Bethesda game to the rather popular publication, Alas, Babylon, according to Fallout Wikia. It’s a story involving a small city of survivors about an hour outside of ground zero. The author is Pat Frank and it focused on life surviving the nuclear blast and has similarities to the Fallout series when it comes to the degradation of society.

So, Fallout futurists or retrofuturists may find how such a theme may be appealing regardless of a critique made about the game’s beginning sequence. Perhaps some may find it endearing as the ever popular Bethesda game can be comparable to other creative works taking a look back on history and how it has predicted future technologies and then applying or even meshing it together into the game’s post-apocalyptic universe. Just like in the real world, could perhaps that vintage toy, creepy chimp banging the symbols be of any value even in the fictional world of Fallout 4?

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